So we’ll have to start by stating the obvious: there will never be another Marilyn. We like to use the word ‘iconic’ today, but she’s one of the few people in the world who can truly own that designation. All over the world you can find people who could look at a picture of Taylor Swift or Jennifer Lopez and say, “Who’s that?” Not with Marilyn. The image of her with the wind blowing her skirt up from the subway below is more recognizable than the Nike swoosh. But the question is simply asking who comes the closest to filling her role for us in our culture. I think I found the right one. Let’s take a look at the criteria needed for the position…
Captivating beauty. It’s not her looks. It’s more. We are inundated with beautiful people pics every day, but every photo of Marilyn seems different. It’s a work of art. Norma Jean was already beautiful, but a new persona captivated the world. It was a perfect storm: a combination of a giant team effort (done by make-up artists, photographers, directors, fashion designers, hair stylists, and even all of us) and a fantastic serendipity.
Possible close candidates for this category: Kate Upton, Lupita Nyong’o, Keira Knightley
Glamour and Style. I’m not sure how to define, much less quantify, glamour. It’s like a magical spell that’s cast by charisma, charm, seductive dress, expensive living, and a flurry of flash photography. It’s like everyone wants to not just see the beautiful photo, they want to live vicariously through the celebrity. They want to hear about them, see them in different circumstances, and know the latest scoop.
Possible close candidates for this category: Beyoncé, Jennifer Aniston, Rihanna
Talent. Many criticisms are made about this queen of celebrity, but if she had no talent she would have remained a model, not a movie star. There are too many women to mention who have comparative talent, but there are a few that come especially close considering the other criteria here.
Possible close candidates for this category: Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron
A Household name. This one is harder than we think. There is no shortage of ridiculously famous people in our culture, but to truly be deserving of this designation, anyone and everyone ought to know your name and be able to describe who you are.
Possible close candidates for this category: Taylor Swift, Madonna, Britney Spears
Notoriety. “Those dresses!” “Those photos!” “That seductive ‘Happy Birthday’ performance!” “She slept with the president!!” Marilyn’s life swirled with rumours, presumptions, scandal, and served as a fuel for delicious gossip for society.
Possible close candidates for this category: Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus
There is so much more to Marilyn, but taking the above categories, it looks like Taylor Swift and Rihanna come the closest. But there’s one more…
And the one I believe is today’s closest thing to Marilyn Monroe:
That’s right. Angelina Jolie. In every one of the above she seems to come out on top compared to other female celebrities. For the most part she beats out all the front-runners listed in each category. With a few minor exceptions (e.g. Jennifer Lawrence is arguably more talented), Jolie has the look, the style, the fame, the X Factor and the tabloid headlines to reign as an early 21st century Marilyn. She’s not the queen; not even an heir. But she puts the crown on and wears it well.
Congratulations Some Like It Hot. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Other than Marilyn, Virginia Cherrill gets this week’s win for playing the blind love interest to Charlie Chaplin in City Lights.
Best Actor: It’s tough for me to pick between Bruce Lee and Charlie Chaplin, so I’m giving it to Jackie Chan. Yup, he was in Enter the Dragon playing a “thug in prison.”
Best Quote: “Tomorrow the birds will sing.” — Charlie Chaplin as the Tramp in City Lights.
But there will never be another.
Movie of the Week